NEW BRITAIN - If there was a way to paint with song, than the New Britain Museum of American Art became the canvas over the weekend.
CitySingers of Hartford performed “Artistry of Music” for a large crowd in the NBMAA’s Stanley Works Center Sunday. The group paired visual art from the museum’s current exhibitions with a capella arrangements of music, projecting high-resolution images on a screen to accompany each piece.
Landscape paintings by John Denison Crocker and Jean McQuillan inspired a pairing with American folk classic “Shenandoah”, which tells of a rolling river out west.
“We’re trying to bring different arts together and make them alive for people,” said Pamela Rose Vollinger, president of CitySingers’ Board of Directors.
Artistic and Music Director Suzanne Gates worked closely with NBMAA Collections Manager Keith Gervase to create the program.
“There are works here in the museum that fit very well with pieces we wanted to sing,” Gates explained.
American artists including Thomas Hart Benton were coupled with American composers such as George Gershwin.
Gershwin’s “Got Plenty o’ Nothin’” concluded the program as Benton’s “Arts of the City” appeared on screen. His Arts of Life in America murals debuted in the 1930s, depicting everyday activities during the Great Depression.
Benton’s “Arts of the South & West” was also featured, alongside Gwyneth Walker’s “This Train.”
America’s founding virtues of freedom and hard work, depicted in works like Charles Frederick Naegele’s “Farmer with Pumpkin” (1890) were brought to life by pieces like “The Emigrant Song” and “Workin’ for the Dawn of Peace.”
Concert attendees took in the sights and sounds while following along in their program booklets, which briefly described each pairing, shared lyrics and offered background on the artists.
“If you’ve been here before you know what a treasure this museum is,” Gates said. “This is also our last performance of the season so it’s very special for us.”
The audience was asked to hold their applause until the end, to make seamless the transition from each song and artwork to the next.
The chamber choir’s program was typical of its musical expressions, which span time, cultures and styles. Its founding members met while studying at Trinity College in Hartford, before deciding to give their passion a purpose. The group is celebrating 30 years together this year.
Newington resident Eric Loveland has been performing with CitySingers for at least eight years. His wife Athina sat in the audience Sunday.
“His parents Ken and Karen are also in the group so it’s become a family affair,” she pointed out. “I enjoy coming to listen. They really do a wonderful job.”
CitySingers’ next performance is not until Dec. 15 at the Enfield Congregational Church. “Nowell!” will also take the stage at the First Church of Christ in West Hartford Dec. 16 and 22.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.